JACKSONVILLE — Ten of Jacksonville State’s 15 sports programs pulled down team grade point averages of 3.0 or better in the recently completed fall semester, bringing the athletic department’s overall average mere percentage points below that benchmark.
Women’s golf topped the list with a 3.595, followed by soccer (3.551) and men’s tennis and volleyball (3.453).
The Gamecocks’ two highest profile sports — football and men’s basketball — came in at 2.500 and 2.346, respectively. They were the bottom two teams on the list, released in conjunction with Monday’s board of trustees meeting, but both results represented a slight increase over their team GPAs in the first semester last year.
“Our GPA has gotten better and better,” JSU football coach Jack Crowe said. “Since Janet (Moore, student-athlete academic support coordinator) has gotten here, there’s just been more structure, somebody who’s looking at this every day and is defining a process and improving the process as we go. We’re structured differently right now starting in January than we were in September.”
Athletics director Warren Koegel’s assessment of his two marquee sports’ performances in the classroom: “OK.”
“I would still like both of theirs to be higher,” he said.
Although fewer teams finished above the 3.0 threshold than last fall semester, the JSU athletic department had a slightly higher total GPA than the fall 2010. The average this fall was 2.996.
“There’s been improvement from what I can tell,” said Koegel, hired on in May. “There wasn’t a sport that was really in bad shape in terms of an overall GPA.”
WEIGHTY ISSUES: Jack Crowe looked at the pre-test results of the Gamecocks’ off-season conditioning program and furrowed his brow.
Whatever the numbers were saying as he marked through a series of names with a blue pen, he didn’t like what he was hearing.
“We’re not strong enough,” he said, particularly noting the projected lines of scrimmage.
He lamented the limited number of players who could bench press 400 pounds. The two who could are both freshmen, which tells Crowe the Gamecocks recruited well but haven’t done anything to make them stronger.
“We just have to create a new emphasis,” Crowe said. “We are playing better football now and we’ve got to be strong enough to win against guys who will have guys who can bench press 400 pounds on their team.
“It’s not that we can’t, I promise you we can, but we’ve got to emphasize it and that’s my responsibility.”
ON THE WAY BACK: Efforts are underway to bring back the Gamecock Club. The booster group has been a non-starter in the past year -- for reasons no one could or wanted to explain -- but JSU officials held an initial meeting to revive it earlier this month.
“We’ve got great people out there who want to help and we just had a get-together meeting to make sure everybody knows how important they are to us to help us,” Koegel said.
No action was taken or officers elected at the meeting, but the plan is to rewrite the group’s by-laws for better structure. The Gamecock Club’s two biggest fundraisers, Fun & Feast and Gamecock Gala, were popular events that helped relieve some pressure off the athletic department’s budget.
Former Gamecock Club members who attended the meeting have told The Star it’s going to happen, but the timetable was uncertain.
“They’re on board,” Koegel said. “I got to know a lot of them through my first several months on the job. Everybody loves Jacksonville State, so we’re all going to work together to make Jacksonville State better. The Gamecock Club will be big part of that.”
THINGS TO WATCH: Look for JSU to name an associate AD for external affairs — an athletics fundraiser — soon. The pool is down to what officials called “a few people,” with the compensation package perhaps the dealmaker. David Farrar, the man currently in that position, is set to retire in February. … Look for Rick Burgess and Bill Bussey — you know them better as Rick & Bubba — to be honorary coaches for the JSU spring game in April. … Look for a strong move to expand the FCS playoffs to 24 teams. … Look for North Alabama’s entry into the OVC to be voted upon by conference officials in July when Belmont’s vote becomes official. The Lions fell one vote shy of acceptance last year.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.